Fired Infinity Ward execs sue Activision

[UPDATE] Jason West, Vince Zampella charge Call of Duty publisher with breach of contract, wrongful termination; seek unpaid royalties, control of Modern Warfare-branded games; Activision calls claims "meritless."

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When Activision fired Infinity Ward president Jason West and CEO Vince Zampella on Monday, the Call of Duty publisher mentioned its expectation of litigation in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. It's unsurprising, then, that Los Angeles-based legal firm O'Melveny & Myers announced today that it has filed suit against Activision on behalf of the two executives, seeking unpaid royalties, as well as "the contractual rights Activision granted to West and Zampella to control Modern Warfare-branded games."

Modern Warfare 2 generated a healthy return for Activision.

According to Activision, Zampella's and West were booted following "an internal human resources inquiry into breaches of contract and insubordination." In a statement released today, the two Infinity Ward executives claim they were fired "weeks before they were to be paid substantial royalty payments as part of their existing contracts for Modern Warfare 2."

"Activision has refused to honor the terms of its agreements and is intentionally flouting the fundamental public policy of this state [California] that employers must pay their employees what they have rightfully earned," attorney Robert Schwartz said in a statement. "Instead of thanking, lauding, or just plain paying Jason and Vince for giving Activision the most successful entertainment product ever offered to the public, last month Activision hired lawyers to conduct a pretextual 'investigation' into unstated and unsubstantiated charges of 'insubordination' and 'breach of fiduciary duty,' which then became the grounds for their termination on Monday, March 1."

West went on to note that he and Zampella were "shocked" after being informed that they had been terminated. "We poured our heart and soul into that company, building not only a world-class development studio but assembling a team we've been proud to work with for nearly a decade," he said. "We think the work we've done speaks for itself." Zampella continued: "After all we have given to Activision, we shouldn't have to sue to get paid."

Claims in the suit include those for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, wrongful termination in violation of public policy, and declaratory relief. Activision had not responded to a request for comment as of press time.

Released in 2009 to critical acclaim, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 brought in $550 million for Activision within its first week of availability and $1 billion within two months. According to Zampella and West's suit, the Call of Duty franchise has brought in $3 billion since 2003--the same year Activision acquired Infinity Ward.

Following the Infinity Ward executives' dismissal, Activision announced a massive expansion to the Call of Duty franchise. Beyond the previously indicated Treyarch-developed Call of Duty title due later this year, Activision also plans to release an action adventure spin-off developed by Sledgehammer Games and an Asia-targeted massively multiplayer online installment, neither of which have a confirmed release date. In 2011, Activision plans to release yet one more Call of Duty-branded game, which is in development at an unnamed studio.

[UPDATE] Activision has since responded to West and Zampella's lawsuit, and as could be expected, the publisher believes the game designer's case is without grounds. Activision also made a point to affirm its claim of ownership to the Call of Duty franchise.

"Activision is disappointed that Mr. Zampella and Mr. West have chosen to file a lawsuit and believes their claims are meritless," the publisher said in a statement. "Over eight years, Activision shareholders provided these executives with the capital they needed to start Infinity Ward, as well as the financial support, resources, and creative independence that helped them flourish and achieve enormous professional success and personal wealth."

"In return, Activision legitimately expected them to honor their obligations to Activision, just like any other executive who holds a position of trust in the company," the statement continued. "While the company showed enormous patience, it firmly believes that its decision was justified based on their course of conduct and actions. Activision remains committed to the Call of Duty franchise, which it owns, and will continue to produce exciting and innovative games for its millions of fans."

Discussion

479 comments
Hobbes9045
Hobbes9045

With out Infinity Ward, MW3 will just be a black ops failure

eliteshadow1980
eliteshadow1980

I hate Activison, They Just betrayed what made them good. Besides Modern Warfare They've got nothing. COD without IW will become a failure just like Spyro, Spider man, crash bandicoot, and tony hawk. All they have left is Guitar hero, and it wont be long before that goes under too

madgame23
madgame23

Heres something that we need to examine first. Who decided to have MW2 setup on steam the way it is? Was it the guys at IW or Activision? Second, it seems that Activision fired these two because they wanted to expand the series and rape it for all its worth regardless of quality, its like no external company seems to create as good a product. I like MW2, except for the server setup and stuff, I've been wondering about the whole issue with MW2 and im thinking that Activision forced IW to set it up the way it is. Look at how they have to have all the consoles benefit first then PC's when IW has been a PC based company, heck COD1 was a PC game! Activision has been a console company because they view that market as a better one due to price, 60 as opposed to 50. Yet PC stuff is expensive too, I mean the computer market benefits greatly from games for all the upgrades people buy for the PC and entertainment. Its amazing how companies can be so blind to somethings!

jobbyjo
jobbyjo

Is this not what happened to medal of honour? The publisher took a good game these guys were involved in and whored out the i/p. then they just went somewhere else and made a better one. That is what will happen here. We will be subjected to numerous world at war clones till nobody trusts the call of duty brand. These two and the infinity ward guys will continue making good games with a new i/p until that is shanghaied by the new publisher. These guys should do a valve/ steam project and take activision and their likes out the picture. I'm angry.

UnrealPro
UnrealPro

Shut Crapdivision down already, I'm sick of them ruining good franchises like Call of Duty, Soldier of Fortune, etc.

dragon-bait
dragon-bait

@MasonChaos Activision would get sued for putting out a statement like that. They legally cannot go into those details

damo320
damo320

Your opinion is over rated.

angelcar
angelcar

@damo320 Yes, it is my opinion that Halo is overrated. I wrote the statement. It's obvious that it's "MY" opinion. Also, mr turfy turf, I said nothing bad about the Xbox 360. I own one. But yes, I'm more fond of my PC and my PS3. PC is better for FPS and online play (free gaming, and less kiddies), and the PS3 is more appealing to me than the XBox. I got the Xbox for certain exclusive games. So, unbundle you chones.

kakashi6666
kakashi6666

activision suck im not gonna buy another one of there games coz wat theyv done is just wrong i mean come on wen i read the statement they realesedit just makes no sens (i know i cant spell lol) and it makes them look like asses

Dynamo11
Dynamo11

Nice to know that IW cares about their franchise being raped up the arse constantly.....

MasonChaos
MasonChaos

So, all they are doing is trying to complain about the counter lawsuit but didn't support their decision on firing them? Would of helped if they could of given some examples of WHY they fired them and not just say "we belive they needed to be terminated."

Abecale
Abecale

I like Activisions response lol. It just reeks of 'High and mighty', and 'Trying to look all innocent'. When if anyone that knows the history of Activision and Kotich, their statement becomes as transparent as glass.

somestupidloser
somestupidloser

@ thisisreallybor Valve is basically it's own publisher. It makes too much money to really be pressured to be bought by a bigger company.

damo320
damo320

@angelcar "Halo is overrated." In YOUR opinion. I think Left 4 Dead, COD, Half Life, Gears of War and Halo are all great shooting games. Each different but all enjoyable. According to your games owned list you seem to only play PC or PS3 so no need to Halo bash just because you don't own a 360.

JacksonsGames
JacksonsGames

I actually think this is quite hilarious of them. Infinity ward wanted to run off with the money. Activision would not allow that. I think it is safe to say that infinity ward is going down the pooper. Or just automatically going down the drain.

Megamanx266
Megamanx266

For people still QQing about how Activision owns Blizzard or is somehow in control of them, they aren't. Vivendi bought out Activision (or something like that) and semi-merged them with Blizzard to create Activision Blizzard. The kicker is that Blizzard Entertainment still has FULL CONTROL over any and all operations especially with their IPs and any other projects.

edd1990
edd1990

call of duty 1 was the only real and true cod...

thisisreallybor
thisisreallybor

and as long as activision doesn't acquire valve, i'm happy

thisisreallybor
thisisreallybor

modern warfare can burn. it's only half the game of bad company 2 anyway

2x4b96123
2x4b96123

and what REALLY gets me... is that even though this has happened.. i still know i'm gonna buy Starcraft II and DIABLO III when they come out -_-... i wonder if Activision is going to 'lose patience' with Blizzard once THEY make them hundreds of millions too

agturboninja
agturboninja

Millions of fans. What happen to the millions of fans for the Tony Hawk games, and the Guitar Hero games?

Titch-X
Titch-X

It's funny how Activision think CoD being succesful has anything to do with them sure there money helped make it but they would be nothing without Infinity Ward.

selbie
selbie

I thought something was fishy about Activision's claims. The word 'insubordination' sounds too much like legal jargon. Just pay the guys some money!

angelcar
angelcar

@bennae66: Halo is overrated. And Half Life 2 is an excellent FPS with no RPG elements in it.

bennae66
bennae66

i diddnt buy mw2, or any call of dty game, ever. but i give the infinity ward lads the kudos they deserve. i just dont buy shooters anymore unless they have some kind of role playing element to them. (halo the only single exception) i would like to think those lads get thier cash. activision: pay up, give them some cash, they did you well! let them keep the 'modern warfare' label, and you keep the 'call of duty' label. sounds fair to me - edited for 'speiling'

itsme73
itsme73

Activision deserves all the **** they get.

Dan21278
Dan21278

How many problems have there been at Activision?: A lot. That should tell you some thing about how Bobby Kotick runs things Over there. IW Forever!!!!!!!!!!!!

katwomansz
katwomansz

Well this shows that the real problems with Modern Warfare 2 started with Activision's greed. Pay the men from IW. I hope they win and save COD from the clutches of Kotick.

XEKazumi
XEKazumi

Punch Kotick in the balls for me Jason West. Don't let Activision beat you lying down. You got my support.

kharn_reborn
kharn_reborn

@Delius... Well said... I didn't even take into account the crap that's likely to come out after the termination of these two. Not that I didn't like the WW2 COD's (only some of them), but you have a point when it comes down to the bigger of two fish wanting to take advantage of a license which has grown to big for greed not to take over. Seriously, what Activision titles besides those in the music genre have been ground-breaking over the years?... Nothing. And even as far as the music games, again, that started development elsewhere. Activision can go f*** themselves for screwing up a license I grew to like.

toron01
toron01

they should have sent fourtwozero packing as well !!!!

squidracerX
squidracerX

IW was dumb for joining Activision in the first place.... Maybe they both will go out of business like they deserve.... money hungry so and so's!

doontime
doontime

@Lazerbeak2125 sorry I have played it a bit but I honestly don't see the fun in it, I'm not saying it's bad, but I really really don't like it...-_-

Lazerbeak2125
Lazerbeak2125

Hey doomtime,COD original for pc was the best.maps were great,all of them.But what really made the game extrodianary,was 64 people online.

F00SEY
F00SEY

Thats great. ****ing Activision.

halomonkey1_3_5
halomonkey1_3_5

@boirascal90 IW doesnt make the COD that releases on even numbered years, treyarch does, so that both teams have 2 years of dev time for each COD. also wait and play the new COD before saying its going to kill the franchise.

Delius
Delius

The way I see it: First and foremost Activision has already established a horrible reputation, it speaks for it's self. Activision never provided any concrete reasons why these two were fired, other then a few murky reference's about breach of contract and unhonored Obligations. Now we see announcements about new license milking CoD spin-offs. OK 2 + 2 = 4, I can only assume that Activision decided they were gonna dilute and milk the franchise for all it was worth, and Zampella and West wouldn't play ball. So Activision's lawyers find some obscure stipulation in there contracts as grounds to terminate them, thus removing any resistance to IW's direction, and saving them tons in royalties. I seriously hope Zampella and West manage to save Infinity Ward, get what they're owed, and most of all (which won't happen, but it would be nice to see) an apology from Activision.

kharn_reborn
kharn_reborn

"In return, Activision legitimately expected them to honor their obligations to Activision, just like any other executive who holds a position of trust in the company," the statement continued. "While the company showed enormous patience, it firmly believes that its decision was justified based on their course of conduct and actions." As with the other story about this screw-up, Activision has yet to define what these "obligations" were and how West's and Zampella's "course of conduct" was out of line. Still have to say that I'm rooting for these two since all their accusations were laid out on the table. It sounds to me like Activision put together a nicely-worded retort to the suit for the public until they could think of an actual excuse for getting rid of these two besides the money.

boirascal90
boirascal90

Why did they got fired???? It doesn't seem that they did anything wrong. Anyway the cod realesing this year is goin to be the downfall of the franchise. i mean comeone no need for a rush 2-3 years is fine for mordern warfare 3

JJames3dCG
JJames3dCG

@johneese See and it's people like you and many others that say "I know I'm getting screwed, but I don't care who or what gets hurt in the process as long as I get want I want." But what happens when Activision stops making COD games or they aren't worth the CD their printed on?? Then you don't get what you want anymore, and you never will again. And what your really doing, is supporting the demise of what you loved so much. You're your own undoing! It's not just like this in the gaming industry but all over America in every way of life. We have to stop "taking it" at whatever the cost just to have it. That's what will ensure we get what we want in the future days to come. It's time people woke up, and gave a $hit about something. johneese Posted: Yes, that sounds easy, on paper (Boycotting Activision). You really expect people to give up cod? Online gaming has provided a sort of addiction, and the bottem line is that people dont really give a f*** about how they get made or who gets screwed in the process, even if its us, all we care about is having it. Take the 360 for example, every console is a ticking time bomb and there have been thousands of repairs, yet people seem to keep buying them. I am one of those people. Im currently using my girlfriend's xbox, after owning 3 that red ring'd. I thought that having a defective console would be enough for people to stand up and stop taking this bulls*** from corporations, but it wasnt.

HolmstN
HolmstN

Considering the fundamental lack of any hard support by Activision on the case, I would guess that IW is certainly in the right. You can tell from their statement they've not got a lot to back up their points, otherwise they'd be shooting off claims to make themselves look good. Meanwhile, West and Zampella have released very specific points of interest. Things definitely look in their favor if we read between the lines.

mcginnism
mcginnism

What do you do to the developers who've created your best selling, most critically acclaimed game and intellectual property ever? First, betray your workers by firing them before royalty payments are due. Second, alienate your customers by assigning th...e sequel to a development house well known for making substandard products. You'd think that their upper management was staffed entirely by former insurance execs.

EgoAttacker
EgoAttacker

Sounds like they fired those dudes so they wouldnt have to pay them for MW 2 ,idiots.

Zarnaken
Zarnaken

...........watching...waiting....learning...hoping....IW for the win!

kakotan
kakotan

My guess is i bet Blizzard is kinda wishing it never got involved with this company lol